University of Southern Maine has been named a top four-year school in the US for adult learners by the Washington Monthly.
The magazine’s ranking, "America's Best Colleges for Adult Learners" — the first of its kind aimed at students age 25 and over — lists USM at #52. USM was the only Maine school to make the top 100 rankings, and only 8 other Northern New England schools garnered rankings, with USM ranking above Brown and Tufts Universities.
USM’s scores were perfect or near perfect in the categories of "flexibility of programs," "ease of transfer," and "services for adult students." Other factors included the percentage of students over 25, and their likelihood of paying off their student loans and their earnings.
According to the magazine, nearly a third of all undergraduates today are twenty-five or older, making it all the more important for universities to serve this population.
“We are deeply proud of our adult learners and the life experiences they bring to our campuses. Situated in the economic heart of Maine, our career-oriented academic programs are positioned to connect hard-working adult learners with upward mobility,” said USM Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing Jared Cash.
One such adult learner is veteran Marine, Mary Swanson.
The 27-year-old Swanson recently shared the story of her eight years of service in the Marines with The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, which catalogs and shares veterans' own stories, and was hosted on Nov. 4 at USM with Maine’s Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
During her years in the Marines, Swanson was promoted to Sergeant, deployed to Japan and got married and had two children. At one point she had 160+ Marines under her charge.
When she left the military in 2017, she decided to enroll at USM and when she arrived, she connected with USM’s Veterans Services which helps guide and support veterans through the process of entering and completing college, and discovering their skills to ultimately pursue a new career.
Now in her junior year, majoring in psychology with a minor in political science, and hoping to pursue a law degree at University of Maine School of Law, Swanson has taken advantage of the many opportunities USM has offered her, and she is grateful for the support she has received.
Swanson said that being at the University of Southern Maine helped her find her purpose again. “Like many undergraduate students, I changed my major a couple times and was really unsure during my transition what I was meant to do in this world anymore. I loved being a Marine Sergeant and was at war with myself and everyone around me for a while after I left the Corps in 2017.”
“At USM, I have had the privilege to be mentored by so many — not only Veteran Services, which is set up to ensure that veterans do succeed, but from my student group advisor who really gets to know students on a personal level, on up to the Dean of Students and the University’s President, who both have really had an open door policy and offer an ear to talk about the issues,” she said.
For this adult learner, “USM is more than a school, it is a community,” she said.
The magazine ranks four-year colleges (defined as awarding more bachelor’s degrees than certificates or associate’s degrees) according to factors that specifically affect adult students, including ease of transfer, flexibility of schedule and services for adult learners.
They sampled 2,114 colleges, of which 1,136 are considered four-year colleges (based on Carnegie classification and whether they awarded more bachelor’s degrees than certificates or associate’s degrees).
In August they released their 15th annual College Guide and Rankings, rating colleges and universities on their contributions to social mobility, research and public service, saying “Unlike U.S. News & World Report, which rewards institutions for prestige, wealth and exclusivity, the Monthly rankings call attention to colleges that serve the best interests of the country as a whole — including by enrolling and graduating students of modest means. It’s a mission that’s even more important in the wake of the “Operation Varsity Blues” bribery scandal.”
Story by Danielle Vayenas / Office of Public Affairs
Photo of Mary Swanson by Daniel Hartill / Office of Public Affairs